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Unmuted: Speaking Creativity During Crisis

A virtual Senior Capstone exhibition featuring artwork by Xitlalitl DiazHannah KimSarah LopezJordyn MartinPeter MoppertConsuelo PradoKai ReynoldsPreston SimmonsAlison Thomas, and Gazelle Walker.  

Virtual 2021 Visual & Public Art Senior Capstone Festival

  • Date: May 20, 2021

  • Time: 10am-Noon

Event is Free & Open to the Public!  


About Senior Capstone:
VPA's annual Senior Capstone Exhibitions demonstrate knowledge, skills, and abilities developed over the course of a student's learning experience within the area of Visual and Public Art.  The collective assessment of Senior Capstone is a critical aspect of achievement within the VPA program, and this end-of-year exhibition provides an opportunity and platform for our students to demonstrate what they have learned, practiced, and mastered. 
 
At VPA, we provide 1/1 academic mentorship that includes technical proficiency, professional practices, and exposure to deep-rooted social issues within a contemporary art and social framework.  Each student participating in this year’s festival upheld VPA's curricular goals and Major Learning Outcomes during a very challenging academic year, and we are pleased to present our annual Senior Capstone Exhibition and Festival as the acknowledgement of each students' ability to demonstrate learning at high levels.  We invite you on a self-guided virtual tour and to learn more about each student's project by clicking on the linked names above.

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image credit (above): screenshot, UnMuted: Speaking Creativity During Crisis virtual exhibition

Xitlalitl Diaz: Easy & Obscene: Embracing Female Sexuality

Project Statement: Embracing Female Sexuality, embodies a series of portraits that explore elements of female sexuality. To create these images I used acrylic paint and glass beads. I chose to paint on oval shaped canvases due to its symbolic relationship to the womb. Inspired by personal experiences and heart to heart conversations with my peers, I strive to transform my art into discussions surrounding fertility, femininity, and female youth. Regardless of our social advances, society continues to stigmatize women who are open about their sexuality. From analyzing media and society, women who have taken an equal position to men acknowledging their sexual nature are usually accused of being easy or obscene. These terms have become part of the cultural language which is unacceptable and unpleasant.

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image credit (above): Xitlalitl Diaz: Easy & Obscene: Embracing Female Sexuality, mixed media painting, 2021

 Hannah Kim: A Herp Enthusiast

Project Statement:  Inspired by caring for exotic animals at her family’s reptile store, Hannah’s project strives to educate audiences of the responsibilities in caring for reptiles and amphibians in captivity. While they are fun and interesting to handle, they require more attention than a typical furry house pet. Using mixed-media practices, Hannah’s ten-foot painting installation will demonstrate the habitat and materials needed to provide a stable home for herptiles. Some popular species within the trade are represented by small paintings behind one of the largest snakes owned in captivity, a Burmese Python snake. Bristol board, cardboard, glass, wood, artificial plants, and substrate were used in creating this piece to replicate how an enclosure should be assembled. Though there are many ethical issues associated with keeping animals in captivity, the exotic pet trade will never come to an end because of humans curiosity and need to interact with wildlife. With that being said, Hannah’s research on selective breeding and conservation play an important role on the values of allowing herpetoculture when it is practiced correctly. Humans have a major responsibility in caring for these creatures safely and providing a happy and healthy environment for them to live in. Due to these concerns, casual hobbyists will be more informed of the importance of understanding professional ethical practices and will research the care before buying a new pet after viewing my work.

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image credit (above): Hannah Kim, The Herp Enthusiast, mixed media painting, 2021

Sarah Lopez: Pyrographic Remembrance of Wildlife

Project Statement: Pyrographic Remembrance of Wildlife focuses on how California’s wildlife are suffering from the same circumstances that humanity is facing from the recent California wildfires’ destructive effects on nature. Wildfires have resulted in the destruction of homes via habitat loss, forced animals to receive medical treatment for burns at hospitals before being relocated to safer environments, created more air pollution via smoke and water pollution from the resulting ash and mudslides. It is important to spread awareness of the preservation of wildlife including those that are endangered as well as encourage the prevention of manmade fires. There is a dire need to discuss these environmental issues because the length of the wildfire season increases yearly due to climate change resulting in more suffering, loss and pollution. Pyrographic Remembrance of Wildlife is a collection of openable small rectangular wooden shadow boxes filled with preserved plant life along with flat circular wood pieces that have been burned via pyrography wood burning. The pressed and dried preserved flora as well as burned foliage cover the boxes’ interior while the wooden pieces are placed over the plantlife. The exterior of the wooden boxes and the smaller wooden pieces inside are burned with imagery of California’s wildlife including terrestrial, aerial, aquatic wildlife as well as California’s endangered species. The animals are mainly burned two-dimensionally although small parts are slightly carved in. Most of these drawings are burned in shades of brown and black although some sections are colored with each respective animal’s colors through diluted watercolor.

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image credit (above): Sarah Lopez, Pyrographic Remembrance of Wildlife, mixed media pyography, 2021

Jordyn Martin: For the Love of Hair: Detangling Cultural Biases

Project Statement: For the Love of Hair: Detangling Cultural Biases, consists of a series of portraits and interviews that celebrate the exquisiteness of natural hair while spotlighting implicit bias. I use my own lived experiences along with a research driven art practice as tools for empowerment and liberation. According to the statistics of both historical and the present dehumanizing experiences for blacks in America, I believe that these forms of judgments should be brought to notice and is unjust in the black communities, believing that hair and skin should be perceived as a custom of beauty rather than being rooted from hate.  I interview individuals within the black community on how hair discrimination has affected their self-confidence as well as how they overcame these experiences through their own psychological liberations. Through this, I construct a body of work that voices the importance of endorsing good mental health and dispiriting discrimination. I use mixed media including acrylic paint, elements of texture, fabric, and pattern in the form of figurative presentation of portraiture to create 3 large portraits in the sizes of 24 x 30 inches. The works include a website link to the auditory hearings of their interviews/testimonials. These conversations reveal the interviewees experiences and ideas about hair discrimination, mental-wellness, self-love, and hope. The purpose of my project is to not only help others become aware of this cultural bias issue, but to also inspire those of color to use their texturized hair and brawn brown skin as a tool of empowerment.

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image credit (above): Jordyn Martin, For the Love of Hair: Detangling Cultural Biases, mixed media painting, 2021

Peter Moppert: On Growing Old

Project Statement: The proportion of the elderly in the population of the developed world has grown. Are we to be a resented burden on the lives of the succeeding generations, or can we be relevant in the world, and in the lives of our successors. I cannot answer these questions, but this project will give both literal and impressionistic representations of a sample of the elderly among us through the media of both digital photography and alternative photographic processes. This proposal will show six subjects in their seventies and eighties shown in five photographic formats. The different formats will convey different moods because of their different textures, contrasts, and colors. Older people walk through the world anonymous and invisible but their images can be interesting to behold upon close examination. In a way they become caricatures of their former selves: hollow eyes, stooped frames, creased visages, flabby musculature, and exaggerated ears and noses. We depend upon the youth, and it is up to us to stay in their good graces. For those of us who can, this is a good time to give back, and for those of us unable, this is a good time to show humility and graciously accept help. The color digital and the black and white images give a relatively accurate representative image of ourselves as others see us and as we see ourselves. The alternative process images are far more diffuse and create an impression of ourselves that exaggerates features and textures. The different processes create moods and are more of an artists impression rather than an accurate rendering. We may see ourselves in these images or we may not recognize ourselves. To think that any photograph is an accurate rendering of how others see us is an illusion.

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image credit (above): Peter Moppert, Growing Old, van dyke and cyanotype prints, 2021

Connie Prado: Gender is a Myth: Deconstructing Gender and its Stereotypes

Project Statement: Gender is a Myth: Deconstructing Gender and its Stereotypes examines gender as a social construct, specifically male and female gender codes and the signals that individuals make externally that indicate their sexuality through a 1970’s aesthetic. The 70’s are considered to be an extremely important and pivotal moment for cultural identity and gender expression. This stylish decade helped lead the way for a new understanding of gender and fluidity.

 

This installation consists of a diorama and two large scale paintings. Using acrylic one painting depicts a hand gesture in the form of a peace sign representing the fusion of the masculine and the feminine. Displayed adjacent, is a hand crafted fabric-based painting containing the phrase “Gender is a Myth”. When viewed together, they function as a mirror that leads its viewers to question the construction of gender in today's society.

 

The diorama is a three tiered doll house renovated to fit the 70’s aesthetic and focus on the intersexuality of the feminine, the masculine, and the fluidity in between. This doll house consists of three narratives within each floor. The first representing fluidity by having the subjects getting ready for a night of disco; the second representing self-realization and self-acceptance where the subjects will be dancing in the comfort of their preferred garments; and the third representing subscribed, rigid fe/male gender codes as society views them by having them dressed in forced gender based clothing standing on opposite ends of each other.

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image credit (above): Connie Prado, Gender is a Myth: Deconstructing Gender and its Stereotypes, mixed media photography and sculpture, 2021

Kai Reynolds: Shelter and Self

Project Statement: Shelter and Self is a project focusing on the success and limitations of people of color. It was made to highlight inequity, to push boundaries and create through intervention. One such issue is homelessness, according to the department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment, people of color are significantly over-represented among people experiencing homelessness. Focusing on the Homeless Response System in Monterey County, The Wanderer or the lead artist of this project placed a camera obscura in Salinas, Chinatown to reflect on the barriers that this population faces daily. These barriers include: mental illness, drug abuse, lack of housing, and unfair housing rates. This is showcased by shadow figures digitally manipulated into the tent that will visualize the barriers for the viewer. If one were to pinpoint the demographics of who are being served in Monterey County using data from 2017-2018 a disparities analysis was done; if one is focusing on race alone, more than half of the clients that exited into permanent and supportive housing were white, non-Hispanic individuals even though they only made up 35% of the homeless population. As a mixed race, non-binary, transitional aged youth (ages 18-24) the Wanderer would more than likely be lost in this homeless response system. One could see this as a form of social activism that challenges viewers and the issues specific to their community.

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image credit (above):  The Wanderer, Shelter & Self, performance, camera obscura, photography, video, and mixed media sculpture, 2021

Preston Simmons: Pariahs

Project Statement: What does it mean for us, as humans, to interact? Can every shared word or action, as well as their effects on those to whom they are directed be taken at face value, or is there more going on at the emotional and spiritual levels than can normally be seen by the human eye? It is this uncertainty that makes human interaction an unpredictable minefield. However, this uncertainty does not exist for Alex Boone, who was born with eyes capable of seeing the energies people accumulate through their interactions, the positive, the negative, and the delicate, constant balance between the two. He takes it upon himself to use his gift to positively impact others, but it proves to be just as much a curse when he learns his thoughtless interventions not only upset the balance he aims to protect, but also threatens to perpetuate the demons that grow within us when negativity festers, unhindered. In order to do right by the universe and fight the forces of chaos, Alex will join forces with the otherworldly Pariahs, Moses Karasawa, Tom Amias, and Angel Farrow, who are sworn to vanquish demons and maintain balance. Join Alex as he struggles to reconcile the moral ambiguity of the Pariah credo of slaying the possessed for the greater good with his innate desire to save everyone and strives to discover how his perspective can bring true empathy into the world of this emotionally turbulent graphic novel. Readers are encouraged to view the PDF and use the settings button in the top right corner to select "two page view" for an optimum aesthetic experience. 

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image credit (above):  Preston Simmons, Pariahs, mixed media drawing, 2021

Alison Claire Thomas: SLEEP V SLEEPLESSNESS:

COMPOS

MENTIS

NUANCES

Project Statement: With roughly a third of our lives spent asleep, it is a mystery we all share. Inspired by surrealism and growth mindset, the socially engaged, interactive installation, SLEEP V SLEEPLESSNESS: COMPOS MENTIS NUANCES, communicates the transitions between waking and sleeping states. In America, 1 in 3 people don’t get the

recommended amount of sleep and 1 out of 5 people have a mental health disorder.

These are statistics from a non-pandemic year.

Exploring stress-induced insomnia, THE FACE OF SLEEP reimagines the wynnorific ambivalence of dreams, and

the rejuvenating mental and physical benefits unlocked by deep sleep. It’s antithesis, THE FACE OF SLEEPLESSNESS,

highlights the effects outer stressors can have on our inner patterns, and the varying levels of consciousness we

are aware of. Reminiscent of nightmares and daydreams, SLEEP V SLEEPLESSNESS invites viewers to investigate the

content and purpose of their dreams, and how perception shapes reality.

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image credit (above):  Alison Thomas, Sleep v. Sleeplessness: COMPOS MENTIS NUANCES, mixed media sculpture, 2021

Gazelle Walker: Natural States

Project Statement: Despite huge advances in science over the past century, our understanding of nature is still far from complete. Natural States explores the limits of our understanding of nature and promotes the inherent worth of all ecosystems in their raw, untouched by human form. Depictions of species using bright colors and intricate patterns represent the complexities of earth’s ecosystems and the harmonious relationships present in them. I created this project because we all have unique relationships with our environments and not enough opportunities to reflect on them. Throughout the last year of lockdowns, without shopping malls or cinemas, nature has become a respite for many including myself. Drawing inspiration from folk and pop art, my project aims to build collective empathy for the natural world as a means for conservation. I also explore the environmental impacts of the art-making process, seeking the most sustainable methods for creating my works.

The project consists of 3 brightly painted, toy-like cardboard sculptures and 2 accompanying paintings along with a lesson plan for children. Cardboard is a highly earth-friendly material for creating artworks as it is made of up to 90% recycled fibers, readily available, and malleable in creating complex forms. The sculptures are created from 3D models which allows me to execute them on any scale for future public art projects. Through children’s lesson plans, adult art workshops, murals, and public sculptures, future phases of my project offer opportunities to connect with communities and encourage bonds with nature through use of recycled art materials.

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image credit (above):  Gazelle Walker, Natural States, mixed media sculpture, 2021